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Mit etwas Vorbereitung kann man den Urlaub unbesorgt genießen © Elena Peters Fotografie

Travel trends 2023: Off to adventure land – but safely!

This is what holidaymakers should know to protect themselves from hepatitis

Finally vacation. Get out of the daily grind and into adventure: More and more holidaymakers expect more than just plenty of sunshine and all-inclusive. A big travel trend in 2023 is individual travel. Holidaymakers are not only more spontaneous, but also attach greater and greater importance to new experiences. This makes it all the more important to be aware of any health risks and to protect yourself from a serious disease such as hepatitis A.

Individual and sustainable forms of vacation are becoming more and more relevant and are giving rise to a number of new travel trends: active vacationers are looking for new sporting challenges, food lovers are trying their way through regional specialties and culinary trends, explorers are raving about spontaneous road trips into the blue, couchsurfers are raving about their experiences with local hosts, and for backpackers, the journey is already the destination.

What adventurous holidaymakers are often not aware of is that all these trends carry risks – not least the risk of contracting so-called travel hepatitis, a highly contagious liver inflammation caused by the hepatitis A virus.

Holidaymakers should therefore seek advice on travel vaccinations from their family doctor eight to twelve weeks before travelling. A hepatitis A vaccination is well tolerated and can be carried out together with other vaccinations.[i]

Travel trends in a risk check

If you want to get off the beaten track and experience adventures, you can’t neglect preparation. This includes finding out about health risks in good time. Caution is therefore particularly advised with the currently popular travel challenges, in which you have to complete certain tasks while traveling (such as selfies in front of spectacular backdrops, a tour of the island on a rented scooter or a long-distance spitting competition with melon seeds). It is well known that sports injuries, accidents or stomach upsets can be an issue here. Less well known is the risk of becoming infected with hepatitis A.

In addition to most tropical regions, the Mediterranean region and the increasingly popular southeastern European destinations are among the areas with a high incidence of hepatitis A.[ii] Because most infections are caused by contaminated drinking water, bath water or contaminated food,1 individual forms of vacation and travel trends in particular harbor risks: For example, the spontaneous invitation to eat with the nice local landlords can become just as much a source of infection as the ice-cold drink in the old town disco, shopping at local markets, provisions from the fruit stand on the roadside or filling up the water bottle on the way. The risk of infection is particularly high in areas with low hygiene standards[iii] – a risk to keep in mind, especially on road trips and hikes through more remote, rural regions. Since it is correspondingly difficult to avoid all contact with the pathogen, the simplest and safest way of prevention is to be vaccinated against hepatitis A in good time.

Holidaymakers should seek advice from their doctor on travel vaccinations such as hepatitis A and B. Further information is also available at: www.bereit-zu-reisen.de.

[i] Internists on the net: “Hepatitis A: Treatment, prevention & vaccination.” Available at: https://bit.ly/3YjuEWe. March 2023.

[ii] RKI: “Ratgeber Hepatitis A”. Available at: https://bit.ly/2TAOCxC. March 2023.

[iii] Internists on the net: “Hepatitis A. What is that?” Available at: https://bit.ly/3Zi1HeO. March 2023.


Interview with tropical and travel physician Prof. Dr. Herbinger

Start of the travel season: Protection against hepatitis A also important in the Mediterranean region

Suitcases packed and off on adventure: In the coming summer, travel will be possible again without major restrictions for the first time after the COVID-19 pandemic years. The southeastern European Mediterranean region with countries such as Slovenia, Croatia and Albania is a popular travel destination this year. In an interview, tropical and travel physician Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Herbinger explains what should be paid attention to when travel activities are now increasing again and which health risks on the Mediterranean are often underestimated.

Professor Herbinger, what should travellers consider when making preparations?

It can be assumed that travel activities this summer will reach a similar level as in 2018/2019 – before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 1.42 billion international air trips took place. With increased travel activity this summer, an increase in travel illnesses can be expected. I therefore recommend that holidaymakers seek advice from their family doctor about possible travel vaccinations at an early stage – and not only if a long-distance trip is planned. Health risks, especially from hepatitis A, are also often underestimated when travelling within Europe, especially in the south-eastern European Mediterranean region.

What health risks can be expected in the Mediterranean region and Southeastern Europe?

The Mediterranean region is one of the hepatitis A risk areas. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is often caused by viruses. Such contagious liver inflammation is one of the most common travel diseases, especially hepatitis A. It can be transmitted via foods such as raw fish, seafood, fruit and vegetables, as well as through contaminated drinking water and bathing water. The symptoms of an illness are often non-specific: loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting can occur. Yellowing of the skin is typical.

What precautions can travelers take to protect themselves in the best possible way?

Since it is difficult to avoid contact with the hepatitis A virus, the simplest and safest way of prevention is to be vaccinated in good time. The vaccination is well tolerated and can be carried out together with other vaccinations that make sense for travel medicine. A possible vaccination against hepatitis B should also be discussed with your family doctor.